Complacency is a mistake.
After last week’s gig, I thought tonight would be roughly the same, and planned to do some more new stuff, try and keep the confidence and audience interaction levels on the same par, and get it filmed. It fell at the final hurdle, as my usual cinematographer had remembered to come and see the show, but neglected to note that I’d asked him to film it. A plea on facebook got one positive response, but with the proviso the later I went on the better (more convenient) for my new cameraman. Meanwhile, my original friend had gone home after work to get his spare camera, where he discovered an abject lack of microphone. The audio is the key component in recording my material, so that was no use. Meanwhile, my back-up plan failed on account of texts I sent once I knew which slot I’d be on not being read until that time had passed. As it turned out, I hadn’t yet been on at that point, but my phonecall to say as much went unanswered, and the explanatory follow-up message went undelivered due to an absence of signal downstairs, so rather than re-jig the line-up a second time I decided to just write tonight off as a Gig Destined To Not Be Filmed. So it goes.
I was greeted at the door by both Gordons, happy to hear that the audience was yet again almost at capacity. Halfway into their four-show run they have already broken even, which is great news, and tonight was virtually sold-out. If it continues like this it will hopefully encourage them to try and keep the night running after the festival is over, although whether they generate the same audience numbers remains to be seen. Fingers crossed.
There were seven acts on tonight, and this time I think I might have actually been the most experienced comedian in the room – though that doesn’t mean best. It was a bit hit-and-miss, but when it hit… There were some really great turns tonight. Gordon Struthers compered, doing a lot of topical stuff to a reasonable reception before introducing John McGoldrick. I gigged with him once before at a charity night – the blog is here, though I don’t mention him – and he has recently had a terrific non-gig, detailed here on the entertaining blog When Gigs Go Bad. Tonight, he related a very funny tale of going to see Frankie Boyle with a friend who thought it appropriate to take a rotiserrie chicken into the gig with him, interspersed with asides about his former English teacher being in the audience. He came over a lot more confident than the last time I saw him, which was about three months ago and in a very different atmosphere. He was a good opener tonight, and earned some huge laughs. You can read his own account of this gig on his blog.
Iain McDonald was up second, a face I knew from last week. His observations are accurate but not particularly punchy, and there was a noticeable dip in the laughter rate. He has a joke about a Mid Life Crisis, very similar to mine, which I’d forgotten until he did it. As last week, though, because mine is worded differently and nestled within a series of other, linked, jokes I decided to keep it in my set. He ended with a lyrical piece that reminds me very much of some stuff I’ve seen George Carlin do when opening his HBO specials, and it was far and away (for me) the best bit of Iain’s act. He plays with words to eloquently convey his disillusionment with the society we live in, and it is a really nice and pointed end to his set. A quick search turned up his set from last week:
The first section was rounded off by Chewie – a hairy man with a great bit about spaghetti, which brought him a lot of laughs. I can’t go into much more detail than that, other than to say he got a lot more mileage out of spaghetti than you might presume.
After trying and failing to contact my Friend With A Camera, I went on to open the second section, having had my blog plugged by Gordon Struthers in his introduction (if you’re reading this as a result of that, thanks, hi, and welcome!) – before being described as a cross between Travis Bickle and Mark Zuckerberg. I wish I’d half their wealth, I’ll tell you that much…
My set was shambolic, to say the least. Having spent my preparation time this afternoon having conversations instead in a bid to get tonight filmed, I didn’t put anything like enough effort into arranging my set. Although the Scrabble app on Facebook is also very much to blame for that. Totally addicted. That one app has singularly stolen my productivity. You’d think I could just use the laptop without connecting to the net, but no, that’s impossible. As a result, my material is less well-written, less honed, and comes across less well too. There’s a lesson to be learned here, kids…
I thought it might be funny to open with a parody of a song I’m barely aware of, and one that my image doesn’t belie. So I took the mic from the stand and began “My comedy brings all the boys to the yard, and they’re like, you better be fucking funny ya cunt.” Not really sure where that idea came from, except that I’ve always re-worded songs I hear on the radio, but it got a wee laugh. Really it’s just daftness, and as much as I’d like to be a sharp satirist with razor barbs, I suspect I’ll end up doing a mixture of daftness, wordplay, and occasional topical gags when I find my ‘voice’, as it were. My next line fell totally flat, so flat that it threw me a bit: “The clocks go forward tonight, and some people have a handy rhyme to remember that they go forward. I’ve got a really useful way of remembering – what I do is, I check the BBC site, and if it says remember to put your clocks forward tonight, I do.” Fuck it, I like that line even if no-one else does. I might try it again next year.
I went out to see the Club Powerhorse show last night, and for some reason, at the bar afterwards, my friend Sarah patted me, with an open hand, on the clavicle (I looked that up to ensure accuracy of description. Remember when Google didn’t exist and we had to rely on books? Yeah, no wonder we’re getting fat and lazy.) Anyway, apparently if you pat me there I “feel like a horse.” Which can be construed as an endowment compliment if you word it correctly, although at the time it did just render me speechless – is it a compliment to be told that you have the same muscular structure as a horse? No idea. Fuck it, might get a joke out of it. “A lassie told me last night that I feel like a horse. Yeah, that’s right, yeah. [smug grin] Unfortunately, it was when she patted me here. [pause for gales of laughter] Don’t know how she could tell from up there. [ooh look, a twist. More laughter] – but it’s okay, I didn’t charge ‘er. Charger! Charger, get it! Like a horse is a charger, see!”
Yeah, that’s more or less how I delivered it – only without the laughter. I got more laughs for just milking the final line and cheering “Yaas, it’s a pun!” At some point I drew attention to the giant foam finger that sits on top of cupboards around the performance space – made to look like a kitchen – and asked for a round of applause by saying “Can we have a big hand?” – silly puns based on props in the vicinity. A new high, or a new low? You decide.
So anyway, Jesus welcomes you with open arms, and that sidetracked me. On the bus down to the venue I passed the Oran Mor, and saw protesters outside it holding banners. The only one I read said “Jesus, Save Scotland From Blasphemy.” The Oran Mor is a pub, theatre, and music venue, situated in a converted church. The renovation was completed at least five years ago, and so I related what I’d seen and said that I really hope they’ve only just found out that church is a pub. It got a laugh, and I followed it by saying that the best shirt slogan I’ve seen said “Jesus, Protect Me From Your Followers.” That got a good laugh, and is actually a slogan that the band Tura Satana put on their shirts back before their singer formed My Ruin. True story.
From there on I did my standard five minute set, then forgot to do my new “Random” bit, then forgot to do my “Gladiator Plumbing” stuff – despite having written it on my hand beforehand, and even having had my wee cousin Laura acknowledge this fact. It wasn’t until I came off and sat down I realised I’d totally forgotten about it. That was partly why I wanted tonight’s set filmed too, to have a record of what works and what doesn’t in that bit. Next time, Gadget, next time. All I have is some poorer-quality footage recorded on a phone.
As per last week, I announced that I would do some comic poetry, then made everyone give me a cheer. Previously I’ve announced it and then said “so nae luck”, but I think it works better on all levels to get them onside and involved. All “Nazi Bus Drivers” got was silence, totally unprecedented for that verse, and that put me off. I did some new jokes after it, but didn’t relate the full story of being chucked off a bus for being short on my fare – with more acts on the bill, and a curfew, I was conscious of over-running as it was. Plus, it’s a long story and one I wanted filmed as I think it’ll be easier to transcribe the anecdote as I tell it onstage rather than try to write it as I’d speak it. If that makes sense. So with no camera, time not on my side, an audience with no real opinion of bus services, and having meandered through my set thus far, I decided not to tell it, and just moved on to the next poem. Having first encouraged another cheer, which was lacklustre enough that I made them do it again. Pure pantomime, but hopefully it breaks up my set a bit and since so far people have obliged me I’m going to keep it in for now. I also got a great line that I ad-libbed and plan to keep – “Listen to the cheer poetry gets. If my jokes got that response I’d be laughing. Hell, if my jokes got that response you’d be laughing. Logic!”
I did the same poetry as last week, omitting “S&M in M&S” on the basis of time. At the break, before I went on, I’d seen some drunk wander in, and hoped he wouldn’t heckle. He did, but only after I read the title “Of Course You Realise, This Means War.” He slurred a cheer, and I used one of my put-downs and got a laugh. He also shut up, as a bonus. That poem relies on the phrase “Colonel Gaddafi Duck”, which my friend Andy McPherson came up with years ago. Now that Gaddafi is so prominently in the news, another friend has photoshopped a picture along similar lines about two months back, and the Club Powerhorse show used it extensively as the basis of some of their running gags – further proof that sometimes the same idea occurs independently to different people at different times.
I ended my set with my two favourite poems, the AudioTwat ones, telling them before the first that “it’s okay to snigger like schoolchildren” and triumphantly ending with “yes, it’s a wanking joke in disguise!” – I’m keeping that in. A lassie in the front row made a “sss” noise, so I got in a throwaway line about bringing a snake, and managed to do a callback to some stuff one of the previous acts had done. To my shame, I then announced “That was a callback.” Generally, I think if you have to remind people, it didn’t work. I do like, though, that after I warn people that the next poem will be worse, then introduce it as “Sick Puppy”, I get pre-emptive disgust from a few folk. Tonight I said I’d just alienate them further, and that got a good reaction.
Gordon Smith followed me, and began with a callback of his own – “I’m going to talk about dead pet sex.” Despite not usually interrupting other acts – professional courtesy – I shouted “it worked for me!”, as he then went into his set. He seems a lot more relaxed as a performer than as a compere, and had some really nice lines. He suckered me with one rehearsed “ad-lib” about Jesus turning wine into water, and had some good topical material about Libya and Easyjet.
The third section began with a Mr Bergen, whose first name I forget, but who – it turned out – was married to John McGoldrick’s former English teacher. My mum is a teacher, and so unfortunately his act reminded me hugely of the kind of tedious “hilarious” stories I’ve had to endure, by association, throughout my whole life. He did a long-winded anecdote – albeit with some funny details thrown in – about a friend he didn’t realise was gay, and then later tried to end on a callback to it but didn’t word it in such a way as to be obvious, instead leaving with the much weaker “remember, the friend from before.” The stories might be worth hearing, but in five minutes rather than ten, and with a less-rushed leap into the punchline that then requires further explanation.
Headlining this week was Ryan Carlton, doing his second ever gig after popping his cherry at last Saturday’s show. Once again, he delivered genuinely hilarious one-liners and observations. I have a few favourites, but it’s not my place to put them on the internet – instead, try and find out where he’s next on and see him for yourself. Hopefully he’ll make the effort to come down to the Pop-Up Comedy nights, because he’s funnier and more confident than a couple of the people already gigging there, and more people should see him. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes with a different venue and stricter time limits too.
I did just under thirteen minutes tonight, having omitted some stuff in error, so that means I should be able to do a decent ten once I tighten everything up and cut out the dead wood. My next gigs are all fives though, so it’s time to tighten and time myself before Tuesday – my next four gigs are all for Pop-Up Comedy, and all free entry. Catch me at The Halt on Woodlands Road the next two Tuesdays, and the Victoria Bar on Glassford Street the next two Wednesdays.
The Flying Duck gig will run again for the next two Saturdays at 7pm. Next week will feature Les Sinclair and some newcomers who have graduated from Viv Gee’s course. On the grounds of the past two gigs, it will be busy and funny.
See you soon, or if you see me say hi 🙂